Between Absence and Presence: Rising River Blues


(left) Whitfield Lovell, Whispers—Mattie When you Marry, 1999. Charcoal on wood and found objects. Courtesy DC Moore Gallery © Whitfield Lovell and DC Moore Gallery, New York (right) Whitfield Lovell, Whispers—Rising River Blues, 1999. Charcoal on wood with found objects, 90 1/2 x 52 1/2 x 48 in. Courtesy DC Moore Gallery © Whitfield Lovell and DC Moore Gallery, New York

In Whitfield Lovell: The Kin Series and Related Works, the two tableaux pictured above (Mattie When You Marry at left and Rising River Blues at right) face each other on either end of a gallery. They were originally conceived as part of a larger installation that the artist developed in 1999 during a residency in Denton, Texas. Presented here, the single female and male figure represent the collective lives of Quakertown, the rural African American community that once thrived in the center of Denton from 1875 until 1924. In 1924, the residents were displaced when they were perceived as a threat to a nearby all white girls school. To help summon their memory, Lovell immersed himself in thousands of old family photographs from the Texas African American Photography Archive in Dallas.

The melodic sounds of “Rising River Blues” emanate from the phonograph you see in Rising River Blues and set the tone for the piece. The artist stimulates our sense of sound and sight with the textured layering of strewn clothes evocative of disembodied individuals, thereby inviting the viewer into a space that hovers between absence and presence.

Rising River Blues
Rising river blues, runnin’ by my door
Rising river blues, runnin’ by my door
They runnin’, sweet mama, like they haven’t run before

I got to move in the alley, I ain’t ‘lowed on your street
I got to move in the alley, I ain’t ‘lowed on the street
These rising river blues sure have got me beat

Mmm, mmmm, mmm, mmmm, hmmmm
Mmm, mmm, mmmm, mmm, hmmm,
Mmm, mmmmm

Come here, sweet mama, let me speak my mind
Come here, sweet mama, let me speak my mind
To cure these blues gon’ take a long, long time
–lyrics by George Carter, 1929

Whitfield Lovell: The Kin Series and Related Works is on view through Jan. 8, 2017.

ArtGrams: Recent Acquisitions

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@shamp_jeff shared this still of Brian Dailey’s video “Jikai” (2013)

In  this month’s ArtGrams, we share your photos of our recent acquisitions galleries. From Annette Messager’s plush toy installation to Brian Dailey’s video artwork to Franz Erhard Walther’s participatory Red Song, these galleries highlight some of the contemporary works in our collection.

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Visitors have been fascinated by Annette Messager’s “Mes petites effigies (My Little Effigies)” (1989-90), including Instagrammer @thearthouze, who snapped this photo of the installation

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Instagrammer @lydiawawa shared “Four Courts/ Dublin A and B” by Jan Dibbets (1983)

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Instagrammer @kerryscheidt: “Franz Erhard Walther ‘Red Song’ as interpreted by @davidkfreeman

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Cuddly or creepy? Instagrammer @rianmack zooms in on Annette Messager’s installtion

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“Copula” by Ernesto Neto uses gallery space creatively. Photo captured by Instagrammer @cehhoerr

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Instagrammer @blindobject also zoomed in close for this photo of Juliao Sarmento’s “Tirar a Renda E Soprar na Flor (To Take Off the Lace and Blow the Flower” (1997)

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A recent acquisition by Kara Walker, “Crest of Pine Mountain, where General Polk Fell” (2005). Photo by @nomadyard

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Instagrammer @h.m.jacobs’s view of Annette Messager’s installation


Spotlight on Intersections@5: Alyson Shotz

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Installation shot of Alyson Shotz’s Allusion of GravityPhoto: Lee Stalsworth

The Phillips celebrates the fifth anniversary of its Intersections contemporary art series with Intersections@5, an exhibition comprising work by 20 of the participating artists. In this blog series, each artist writes about his or her work on view.

The structure of this sculpture is inspired by looking at diagrams of space, mass, and how they interact to create the gravity we experience. I hope to allow the viewer to think about space in a different way: what is empty space, what does it look like, what shapes can it take?

Allusion of Gravity is made with clear, round glass beads which reflect the light and let the sculpture transform with the changing natural light during the day. Each bead also acts as a magnifying glass for all the other beads, creating many mini-sculptures within the larger sculpture.

Allusion of Gravity is one version of what I imagine empty space to be like. It was my first sculpture exploring the structure of space itself, and began a series I am still working on today.

Alyson Shotz